"Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be brave. Be strong.
Be loving in everything you do." - I Corinthians 16:13-14
In an utterly astonishing display of arrogance, spin, and intimidation, Bishop Jon Bruno of the Diocese of Los Angeles responds to the decision by two churches in his diocese to leave ECUSA.
In a pastoral letter (click "Continued" below to read the entire letter) he has instructed be read at every church this Sunday, Bruno says the following:
This is all the more troubling because for some time now an international commission of the Anglican Communion, established by the Archbishop of Canterbury, has been hard at work attempting to respond pastorally to some of the concerns of more conservative members of the Communion who are troubled by the decisions of our last General Convention and by the blessing of same-sex unions taking place in the Church in Canada. The final report of this commission is due out in approximately one month. How disappointing that our congregations would make such a decision at such an inopportune time.Bishop Bruno mischaracterizes the charge to the Lambeth Commission, implying that the reason it exists is primarily to offer the dysfunctional conservatives a way to deal with it. What he neglects to mention is that the Archbishop of Canterbury ordered the commission "as soon as practicable ... to make recommendations to the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council, as to the exceptional circumstances and conditions under which, and the means by which, it would be appropriate for the Archbishop of Canterbury to exercise an extraordinary ministry of episcope (pastoral oversight), support and reconciliation with regard to the internal affairs of a province other than his own for the sake of maintaining communion with the said province and between the said province and the rest of the Anglican Communion."
In other words, how Canterbury might discipline ECUSA, not how Lambeth might "respond pastorally" to heartbroken conservatives.
The Lambeth Commission also asked both sides of this debate to hold back so that it may have some room to work. Bishop Bruno not only chose to ignore that plea, approving the blessing of same-sex unions in his diocese, but he officiated at one himself, with Otis Charles in attendance. In response to that and many other such incidents, the Primate of the West Indies, Drexel Gomez, also a member of the commission, wrote chairman Robin Eames:
There is no small feeling amongst conservative members of the Communion that they are being asked to show restraint whilst the liberal agenda moves ahead, with bishops in ECUSA taking action against conservative parishes; the Church of Canada proceeding to debate the blessing of same sex unions; dioceses in the Episcopal Church actually going forward with the authorisation of such rites, and the appointment of known advocates of same sex unions to senior office in the Church of England. This is only likely to create a situation where the playing field is perceived as skewed - conservative reaction is held back, whilst liberal viewpoints are allowed to claim too much territory... It creates the question in many minds, "Why should we wait, if others are not showing the same restraint?"Bruno then cuts to the chase: Your property belongs to me.
It is both my pastoral and fiduciary responsibility as your Bishop, in concert with the Standing Committee, to protect and preserve the properties of these congregations as part of the Diocese of Los Angeles. The consecrated buildings of each of our congregations rightfully belong to the Episcopal Church in this Diocese and in the USA.He then proceeds, for good measure, to call those on the other side of this debate morons:
They have stated that this Church is not orthodox biblically or theologically. How wrong they are. I want you to know as your Bishop that I continue to uphold the vows I made on the day of my consecration "to guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church." I believe today as I did when I was first ordained that the Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation. Yet I will not let the Holy Scriptures be compromised by those who seek to make their literalist and simplistic interpretation the only legitimate one.In other words, folks, this is indeed the Church of Anything Goes. Anything, that is, except resistance to the revisionist agenda.
Update: PlanetOut reports on the
split unity in the church (Warning: Images of wholesome, holy lifestyles).
This letter shall be read at every service in all churches of this diocese and made available to all members of our congregations this Sunday, August 22, 2004.
August 17, 2004
To my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the Diocese of Los Angeles:
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus. You may already have heard that two congregations in this Diocese, St. James' Episcopal Church in Newport Beach and All Saints' Episcopal Church in Long Beach, have informed me of the decisions made by their rectors, wardens and vestries to leave the Episcopal Church and to join the Diocese of Luwero in the Anglican Province of Uganda, and that clergy of these churches were now under the bishop of that diocese. The rectors of these congregations appeared unexpectedly, and without an appointment, at the Cathedral Center on Tuesday morning, August 17, and delivered written notice of their actions. They also left a voice-mail message for me and seem to have believed that this served as sufficient communication with me.
The Reverends Praveen Bunyan, William Thompson and Richard Menees, priests, and the Rev. Kathleen Adams, deacon, all of whom are clergy of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America and canonically resident in this Diocese, have therefore abandoned the communion of this Church. I temporarily inhibited these clergy immediately and requested that the two rectors of the congregations meet with me to rescind their decision. They refused this invitation. Subsequently, I called for an emergency meeting of the Standing Committee and, in accordance with the canons of this church, the Standing Committee has informed me in writing that there is sufficient evidence that these clergy have abandoned the communion and I have responded by inhibiting them from the exercise of the ordained ministry. Should they wish to return to the communion of this Church during this period, a process of restoration will take place. Should they not change their minds, they will be deposed. My sincere hope for these clergy and vestries is that they will reconsider their decision and return to full communion with me, the Episcopal Church and indeed with the Anglican Communion.
All of my actions have been in consultation with the office of the Presiding Bishop, the Standing Committee and our diocesan chancellors. I have also written a letter of protest to the Bishop of the Diocese of Luwero with a copy to the Primate of the Province of Uganda. I have also asked the Presiding Bishop and the Archbishop of Canterbury to intervene in this breach of trust and authority.
I have chosen to take the extraordinary step of writing to you in a pastoral letter because of the extreme nature of the decision these congregations and clergy have made and the implications it has on our life together, not only for the Episcopal Church in the USA, but for the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Our Constitution and Canons help to bring order to our common life in the Episcopal Church. Recall that much of our current crisis arose after the General Convention of the Church last summer. The decision to assent to the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire was made, in large part, because that diocese duly elected a bishop in accordance with the canons of this Church. Both the House of Bishops and House of Deputies attested to the authority of that diocese to elect its own bishop, that it had been done appropriately and that their decision was based on the quality of Bishop Robinson's life and experience. As a Church, we seek, whenever possible, to allow autonomy in decision-making to individual dioceses. Each Bishop in every diocese has authority over the life and work of that diocese, its congregations and clergy. The Bishop's ministry is based in our belief that in any given place, there is one Bishop, who continues the work of the holy apostles and is the chief priest, pastor and teacher in that diocese. Priests exercise their ministry on behalf of their Bishop and only under the Bishop's authority. No bishop outside the diocese has the jurisdiction to oversee ministry within that geographical diocese. The fact that a bishop from another autonomous church within the Anglican Communion has chosen to exercise oversight in this diocese flies in the face of our ethos as Anglicans and of the catholic unity of the Church. It is a clear statement that the Diocese of Luwero and its Bishop and the Province of Uganda and its Primate have broken with the established historic authority of the Anglican Communion.
This is all the more troubling because for some time now an international commission of the Anglican Communion, established by the Archbishop of Canterbury, has been hard at work attempting to respond pastorally to some of the concerns of more conservative members of the Communion who are troubled by the decisions of our last General Convention and by the blessing of same-sex unions taking place in the Church in Canada. The final report of this commission is due out in approximately one month. How disappointing that our congregations would make such a decision at such an inopportune time. Moreover, I have attempted to honor the congregations and clergy who have dissented from the decisions of General Convention and even offered them the oversight of a bishop of our Church whose opinions on these issues are more in keeping with theirs. The rectors of these congregations did not avail themselves of this opportunity and even up to two weeks ago affirmed their love and loyalty to me as their Bishop. How distressing their recent decision has been to me.
It is both my pastoral and fiduciary responsibility as your Bishop, in concert with the Standing Committee, to protect and preserve the properties of these congregations as part of the Diocese of Los Angeles. The consecrated buildings of each of our congregations rightfully belong to the Episcopal Church in this Diocese and in the USA. I also have a pastoral responsibility to all those of Christ's flock entrusted to my care and am developing plans for the pastoral care of those members of our Church in these congregations who seek to maintain their loyalty to this Church.
Perhaps more than any other time I have felt that I am not alone through this troubling time, not only because similar events have been taking place in other parts of our Church, but principally because I have been contacted by our Presiding Bishop's office and by many other bishops in our Church bringing words of encouragement and support, along with the other bishops in our diocese with whom I have been in contact. Yet even more than these, the messages of your prayers and love from around the Diocese have heartened me. I cannot thank you enough.
Finally, apart from the issue of sexuality, these clergy have also framed their leaving in terms I find unfair and false. They have stated that this Church is not orthodox biblically or theologically. How wrong they are. I want you to know as your Bishop that I continue to uphold the vows I made on the day of my consecration "to guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church." I believe today as I did when I was first ordained that the Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation. Yet I will not let the Holy Scriptures be compromised by those who seek to make their literalist and simplistic interpretation the only legitimate one. Further, I uphold the orthodox faith given to us by the apostles in all the essentials laid down in the historic creeds of the Church. In these necessary things there must be unity of faith, but in other things there may be diversity within this roomy house we call the Anglican Communion. Please join with me at this time as you are gathered at the Lord's Table in praying for these congregations, our Diocese, and for the whole Church. Let us pray:
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.